By Tom Travis
The city council Monday unanimously approved an MOU (memorandum of understanding) allowing the Flint Children’s Museum (FCM) to purchase from the City of Flint the “old Farmer’s Market” property on E. Boulevard Drive.
The council also approved a resolution allowing the City’s Police and Fire department essential workers to receive premium pay for work during the pandemic.
Since October 2021 the city council agendas have had the Children’s Museum MOU listed as a resolution for consideration.
In an added twist, the FCM staff and all the Flint community has recently become aware that a marijuana dispensary is renovating the former Huntington Bank building immediately adjacent to “the old farmers market” property.
Some council members expressed concern about the proximity of the marijuana dispensary to the FCM. In addition there has been some social media chatter voicing both disdain and acceptance of the marijuana dispensary being so close to the FCM.
FCM Executive Director Kimberly Roddy explained that it wasn’t until last Tuesday that the FCM was made aware of the marijuana dispensary being located next to the new property.
Roddy assured the council, “The marijuana dispensary next to the new property is a concern for our board, donors and constituents. It is something that we are taking into consideration very heavily. We are not absolutely going to move into that building.
“We are only looking into the option to purchase the property from the URC who holds the lease and the City of Flint. URC has a long term lease of the property that held by the City of Flint.”
Councilperson Quincy Murphy suggested placing a wall or barrier between the marijuana dispensary and the FCM. Roddy said that is being considered.
“Old Farmer’s Market” property being considered for new Children’s Museum
Commonly known as “the old Farmer’s Market” the property is located at 420 E. Boulevard. According to the MOU the FCM will purchase the property for $36,000 “while it explores options to fundraise with the purpose of redeveloping the property.”
The MOU outlines a brief budget of expected renovation costs: $2.93 million for the renovation of the 14,000 sq. ft. building presently on the property and up to $698,000 for site upgrades to accommodate outdoor learning space and the parking lot.
The Uptown Reinvestment Corporation (URC) currently leases the “old Farmer’s Market” property from the City of Flint that lease expires in June 2029. The URC has agreed to relinquish the lease if the FCM indeed purchases the property.
Flint resident Chris Del Morone said during public speaking, “I believe what’s going to happen is that for $36,000 after the Children’s Museum reaches one of its MOU requirements is that they have to raise $3 million once the Children’s Museum reaches that amount the City of Flint will sell the property to the Children’s Museum.
“All they have to do is raise the funds. They don’t have to build on it. They don’t have to turn it into a children’s museum. They don’t have to do nothing. All they have to do is raise the funds. And guess what? They can spend the funds wherever they want to.”
Del Morone implied the FCM’s excuse could be, for not developing the property could be, ‘well, no one is going to come to the Children’s Museum with that marijuana facility next to it.’
Del Morone continued, “I believe this is a ruse to get the property from the City of Flint for pennies on the dollar, knowing well that the property is worth well over $35,000. Keep the property, deny these who are coming before you tonight make whoever is supposed to fix the property and when they don’t want to fix it take back your property and throw away that lease.”
The MOU states that according to the city’s assessor’s office the four-acre property is worth $166,000.
EVM spoke with Roddy after she addressed the council asking her to respond to Del Morone’s comments. Roddy responded simply, “The Children’s Museum has an interest for the opportunity to explore the purchase of the property.”
All nine council members voted yes to approve the MOU.
Premium pay approved for Police and Fire Departments
The city council also approved a resolution that would allow for American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to compensate essential workers (defined as sworn Flint police and fire certified fire suppression personnel) an additional five dollars per hour for work between June 14, 2020 through June 12, 2021, not to exceed $10,400, according to the resolution.
The resolution also allows for qualifying public safety civilian support personnel an additional $2.50 per hour worked between the same dates, not to exceed $5,200.
Before the vote and during debate, Councilperson Dennis Pfeiffer (Ward 8) said, “We have to take care of our own. We have to take care of our family and the police are our family in this city. We have to give these guys the respect and the overdue compensation for working through the pandemic. It’s time that this body gets these folks their due.”
Officer Kevin Smith, president of the Flint Police Officer Union (FPOU) told the city council, “It’s beyond overdue…You guys have promised the money. Officers put their lives on the line every day. It’s money that they can use to catch up on some bills, have enough to get a car.”
Officer Bill Metcalfe, the officer regularly assigned to be on duty during city council meetings and who has escorted Council President Eric Mays out of the council chambers on several occasions was invited to the podium by President Mays.
Metcalfe said, “People need the money, they have bills. They’ve worked through COVID.” Metcalfe contended that officers who worked during the pandemic but have since retired should receive the premium pay as well. That has yet to be determined if those officers now retired will receive the premium pay.
Council Vice-President Allie Herkenroder (Ward 7), holding back tears, responded, “I wholeheartedly support the police. My partner is a Genesee County Sheriffs Deputy and he’s a night deputy officer. I have to deal with the hard reality every day that he may not come home. I understand you do that for your families as well.
“However, I cannot approve the premium pay as it stands right now because we have the opportunity to leverage it against State and Federal funds to be able to provide you with more. We cannot leverage these dollars if they are not there. I whole heartedly support you.”
Herkenroder was the singular no vote when the council voted to approve the resolution for premium pay.
Councilperson Jerri Winfrey-Carter added, “This is not a matter of cherry-picking. We gotta take care of our own first. We gotta take care of our public safety personnel. They’ve been out there working all through the pandemic, risking their lives, jeopardizing their lives and their families’ lives….we need to boost the morale in our city and we need to start with our police officers.”
Councilperson Ladel Lewis explained, “I initially said no [to the resolution] as well. My reason for saying no was a little different. I wanted to hold true to what I told my constituents [during the campaign] that I wanted to listen to them first then allocate money. Just so we can have a proper procedure a proper order. Also, I felt you [speaking to the police officers present] needed more [money].
Lewis ended her comments by addressing the police officers, “You give us your best. We want to give you our best.”
A large number of police officers were present in the council chambers. Most of the officers were dressed in uniform and applauded when FPOU President Kevin Smith went to the podium to speak on their behalf.
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.